The Blue Devils rarely come in as an underdog but against the vaunted defense of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the experts and Vegas had Duke racking up an L. If you watched the first 5 minutes of the game Thursday night, the experts seemed to know what they were talking about. Texas Tech went up 10-2 on Duke with the Blue Devils shooting 3 straight airballs and having coughed up the ball twice. Duke looked rattled, shook and in need of a time out. Cue the Coach K time out and 2 minutes later the game was tied. It was a punch and punch back situation and even with Texas Tech owning the boards Duke was still able to get the majority of their points in the paint. Duke having a halftime deficit of 4 those points in the paint were a positive sign heading into the second half. For a little added momentum Duke ended the half on a Paolo Banchero and-1 from a pretty feed from sophomore Jeremy Roach. Roach’s play would be key for Duke in this game.
The Blue Devils and the Red Raiders delivered a second half for the ages, with both teams making play after play. The second half saw 11 lead changes, with no team able to push beyond a 6 point lead. Coach K and the Blue Devils made a surprise switch to a 2-3 zone which seemed to garner them them a bit of energy and momentum. Texas Tech seemed rattled and Duke was able to capitalize but Texas Tech coach Mark Adams, after a few series calmed his team down and even threw a zone at Duke causing a turnover from center Mark Williams. The chess match between the two high level coaches was a fun one. Adjustments were made on both sides, both teams still throwing punches.
The high level basketball continued with both teams trading runs. With Duke down 2 with 3:15 left on the clock, much like in the Michigan State game, Duke needed a run. The Blue Devils used a 14-8 run to seal the game sparked by 6 Jeremy Roach points, a Paolo Banchero 3-point shot and a Mark Williams blocked shot. Duke turned up the intensity and punched their ticket to the Elite 8 and a date with Arkansas who knocked off 1-seed Gonzaga.
The story of the game for the Blue Devils, well, stories – were Jeremy Roach, Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams. The second half saw Jeremy Roach assert himself as the best guard on the floor. Roach hit 5-7 shots for the Blue Devils in that second half on this way to 15 points, hw also dished 2 of his 5 assists as well. He’s emerged as a leader and the point guard the Blue Devils have needed at this point in the season. Freshman Paolo Banchero played like the top draft pick he is, scoring 11 in each half for Duke and hitting a big 3 pointer to help spark Duke’s game ending run. Banchero’s 22 points lead the Blue Devils, he also added 4 assists and 3 steals. Mark Williams scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, going 4-5, and hitting 4-4 on free throws. Williams also added 8 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils in the second half, against the highest rated defensive team in the country, were able to shoot 70% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line. Most would assume this meant that Texas Tech was overrated defensively. I assure you they were as good as advertised. Duke toughened up, hit big shots and played beyond their years.
Duke advances to the West Regional final versus fourth-seeded Arkansas. The game tips at 5:49 p.m. PT (8:49 ET) on Saturday on CBS.